Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation December 8-9, 2014
- Richard Immerman, Chairman
- Laura Belmonte
- Mary Dudziak
- James McAllister
- Robert McMahon
- Susan Perdue
- Trudy Peterson
- Katherine Sibley
- Thomas Zeiler
Office of the Historian
- Stephen Randolph, Historian
- Kristin Ahlberg
- Carl Ashley
- Margaret Ball
- Forrest Barnum
- Sara Berndt
- Josh Botts
- Myra Burton
- Tiffany Cabrera
- Seth Center
- Mandy Chalou
- Elizabeth Charles
- Stephanie Eckroth
- Thomas Faith
- David Geyer
- Renée Goings
- Charles Hawley
- Adam Howard
- Aiyaz Husain
- Laura Kolar
- Lindsay Krasnoff
- Aaron Marrs
- Bill McAllister
- Michael McCoyer
- Chris Morrison
- Mircea Munteanu
- David Nickles
- Paul Pitman
- Alex Poster
- Kathleen Rasmussen
- Seth Rotramel
- Avi Rubin
- Daniel Rubin
- Melissa Jane Taylor
- Chris Tudda
- Dean Weatherhead
- Joe Wicentowski
- Alex Wieland
- Louise Woodroofe
- David Zierler
Bureau of Administration
- David Adamson
- Jeff Charlston
- William Fischer
- John Hackett
- Marvin Russell
National Archives and Records Administration
- William Mayer, Executive for Research Services
- Lynn Goodsell, Research Services
- Rebecca Calcagno, Electronic Records Division
- Don McIlwain, National Declassification Center
- John Powers, Information Security Oversight Office
- William Burr, National Security Archive
- Lee White, National Coalition for History
- Mark Braude, Stanford University
Open Session, December 8
Approval of the Record of the September 2014 Meeting
Committee Chair Richard Immerman called the meeting to order at 11:04 a.m. by welcoming the attendees, and asked the Committee to approve the minutes of the September 2014 meeting with amendments. The Committee approved the minutes, and then voted to reelect Immerman as Committee Chair. Immerman offered a special welcome to Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Douglas Frantz, noting that he appreciated the effort, on behalf of Franz, to speak to the Committee.
Remarks by Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs
Frantz returned the greeting, welcoming members of the Committee on behalf of Secretary of State John Kerry and himself. He indicated that it was the second time he had met with the Committee during his tenure. Franz stated that he interacts with the Office of the Historian’s senior leadership on a daily basis, characterizing the Office as a “SWAT History team” that brought the lessons of history to current events. It is this work that makes the Office so relevant. He said the Office had provided helpful consultation on issues such as Iran and the Sanctions Team. Franz praised Stephen Randolph for bringing strong leadership to the Office, saying, “Steve gets the job done effectively and without drama.” Frantz thanked the Committee for their leadership and active engagement in helping guide the Office. He offered the following quote from Cicero: “Causes of events are often more interesting than the events themselves.” Noting the Office’s new location on Navy Hill, he described the beautifully renovated space as a testament to the regard with which the Department holds the Office of the Historian. Franz concluded his remarks by noting his interest in the Stanford University data visualization project. Immerman added that the Committee wanted to congratulate the Office for its move to its new location.
Report by the Executive Secretary
Randolph extended his welcome to the meeting attendees. He emphasized that while the Office is responsible for the publication of the Foreign Relations of the United States series, the series is, at heart, an interagency effort. He expressed his gratitude to the representatives from other federal agencies, stating that the Office could not fulfill its statutory responsibilities for the FRUS series without their help and cooperation. He thanked Franz for his model leadership and for his unrelenting support of the Office and its mission. Randolph also thanked Mark Braude of Stanford University for coming to Washington in order to describe his work with the Office on the new data visualization project.
Randolph, referencing Franz’s earlier comments about the Office’s relocation, stated that the Office had moved to Navy Hill in late October. The move implemented the final remaining corrective action mandated by the 2009 Inspector General (IG) report. The building, Randolph stated, is a constant reminder of the Department’s recognition of the Office’s work. It is a testament, he continued, to what you can achieve by long-term professionalism. Randolph then highlighted the efforts of the Navy Hill Working Group, the various offices and bureaus throughout the Department of State, and the General Services Administration (GSA). The building’s modern facilities, improved storage, and well-appointed space promised to meet the Office’s needs now and well into the future. Randolph acknowledged several individuals for their roles in the relocation’s success. Joe Wicentowski oversaw the Office’s transition to the OpenNet IT environment. Mircea Munteanu, Kerry Hite, and Josh Botts worked closely with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) to ensure that the new environment met the Department’s requirements. The Navy Hill Working Group—comprised of Myra Burton, Renée Goings, Aaron Marrs, Chris Morrison, and Dean Weatherhead—had attended to every detail with their thoughtful leadership throughout the process.
Randolph then announced the selection of Chris Morrison as the new Policy Studies Division Chief. He also introduced two new staff members: Charles Hawley, a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) who had been assigned to the Office on a Y-tour since January 2014, had joined the Office as a historian in the Asia and Middle East Division, and Margaret Ball, who had come from a different agency and had joined the Office as a historian in the Editing and Publishing Division. Ball would augment the gifted editorial staff, Randolph added.
Trudy Peterson asked that a resolution of thanks to all staff involved in the move, which made the move possible without adversely interrupting FRUS production, be entered into the record. The Committee approved the resolution.
Status Reports by the General Editor
Adam Howard reported that the Office had published 4 volumes since the last meeting: 1969–1976, North Africa, 1973–1976 (September); 1977–1980, Foundations of Foreign Policy (October); 1917–1972, Public Diplomacy, World War I (November); and 1969–1976, Organization and Management of Foreign Policy; Public Diplomacy, 1973–1976 (December). With reference to the Public Diplomacy release covering World War I, Howard briefly explained the genesis of the Public Diplomacy retrospective volume. The volume would include public or cultural diplomacy documentation that had not been included in earlier FRUS subseries. He stated that the recently released Organization and Management volume, documenting the Nixon and Ford administrations, had a discrete public diplomacy/cultural diplomacy/information policy chapter. Going forward, the FRUS series would have a dedicated volume (or compilation within another volume) on public diplomacy. Turning back to the World War I compilation, Howard noted that it featured a video component. He then credited Wicentowski and Marrs for making these films available. He also reported that Marrs had researched and edited the World War I compilation. Lastly, Howard indicated that 3 volumes had completed verification since the last Committee meeting. He anticipated that the Office would publish a total of 9 volumes by the end of December.
Mary Dudziak congratulated the Office for the high marks reviewers, such as Nick Cull, had given the World War I Public Diplomacy compilation, attesting to the excellent quality of the videos embedded in the volume. She asserted that its publication was sure to drive additional traffic to the FRUS series and the Office website, adding that its publication could do wonders for broader engagement. Randolph added that historians were currently researching and annotating the compilations for the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations.
Immerman interjected to reiterate Peterson’s comments on the Office’s move, regarding it as a major effort. He then asked Wicentowski and Thomas Faith to report on the data visualization project.
Presentations on Digitization and Visualization of FRUS Data
Wicentowski reported on the Office’s back catalog digitization efforts. He informed the audience that, beginning in 2009, the Office had started digitizing FRUS volumes, as resources allowed, but that limited resources slowed progress on this initiative. At the beginning of 2014, the Office had digitized 200 out of 500 volumes in the series. Wicentowski was happy to report that since September, with the support of the Bureau of Public Affairs, the Office has been able to devote dedicated resources toward a full-time digitization effort. He explained that the resources take two forms: a contract with a vendor to take digital images of the pages, transcribe the text, and apply TEI XML encoding to the text, and the employment of the contract digital editor, who is reviewing 10 volumes per month, an increase from 5 volumes per month. The process, he continued, is augmented by continued cooperation with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Digital Collections Center, which has provided the Office with scanned images of the printed volumes and chapter-level tables of contents for each volume. Wicentowski surmised that if current resource levels are maintained, the Office is on track to finish digitization and review of the entire FRUS series over the next 3 years, making these volumes available in a searchable format on the Office’s website.
After noting the delivery schedule for the digitized volumes, Wicentowski stated that if the rate continued at an average page of 10 volumes per month, the Office will finish the digitization of the remaining 277 volumes in 28 months, or 2 years and 4 months. Based on the delivery schedule, he anticipated the Office would complete half of the 1948 subseries by the end of December, the 1945 volumes by May 2015, the 1941 volumes by August 2015, the 1933 volumes by December 2015, the World War I volumes by June 2016, the Boxer Rebellion era volumes by September 2016, and reach 1862 by March 2017. He explained that the Office had to budget additional time to review the volumes for accuracy and metadata (a process that can only begin once the volumes are delivered to the Office); with these provisions, he anticipated a projected completion date of December 2017. Wicentowski stressed that the microfiche supplements pose additional technical problems and are not included in this estimate. He added that the Office had been posting the full text of the volumes online for students, scholars, and the general public to view and search, to ensure that raw and unstructured data is publicly available for others to use in their projects. In so doing, it allows other ways of looking at and using the series. The TEI XML format, he stated, makes it possible for researchers to “slice and dice,” format simple or complex queries from the data, and perform research never before thought feasible with these documents in their original paper form or other electronic formats. He asserted that the Office has seen evidence that FRUS data is being used by the Columbia University declassification engine project and TEI community samples. In addition, Office historians have used the FRUS data for their own internal analysis and publishing, notably for the FRUS sesquicentennial book project and the e-book initiative.
Wicentowski stated that due to Faith’s hard work, the Office had selected Palladio, an online data visualization application developed by the Humanities + Design Research Lab of Stanford University’s Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA), to help visualize the data contained in FRUS volumes. Wicentowski then introduced Braude, who is a cultural and urban historian of Modern Europe and currently a postdoc research fellow at CESTA. Braude explained that CESTA, among its other responsibilities, produces digital research tools for historians. He gave a brief overview of Palladio, adding that he and other Stanford researchers had developed it as a way for historians and social scientists to visualize information; its development was guided by the idea of single-user driven data. Braude commented that Faith had contacted CESTA and indicated that the Office had a substantial set of data that could be loaded into Palladio. Braude added that Stanford had engaged in partnership talks with Oxford University, Centre de mathematiques Laurent Schwartz (CMLS) in Paris, and the Office of the Historian. He concluded that he would be happy to speak informally with the members of the Committee.
Faith stated that when he and Wicentowski had heard about Palladio’s development, they thought it could be useful to integrate the data generated by all areas of the Office. He then provided a live example of the visualization project, focusing on the “Travels of the President” and “Travels of the Secretary of State” sections of the website. Faith generated a series of Palladio-driven renderings of the information and demonstrated the filtering properties of Palladio. He underscored that Palladio allows the Office to search the series in ways that the current website cannot. Faith also presented an example based on FRUS data collected from 6 published Carter administration volumes. Uploading of this information allows Palladio to serve as a visual browser. It also permits the Office to establish a timeline for the documents published in each volume.
At the conclusion of Faith’s demonstration, Dudziak inquired as to how Palladio might benefit a broad range of researchers, including graduate and secondary students researching National History Day (NHD) topics. Faith responded that while there was a learning curve to using the program, Palladio is much more user-friendly and much more forgiving than other visualization tools. Braude underscored that the development of Palladio is about process. CESTA is not in the business of making products or selling anything. Rather, Palladio is a tool, which the designers hoped would inspire other researchers.
In response to questions from Committee members regarding the accessibility of the data they just viewed as part of the presentation, Faith stressed that the Office is working to make the FRUS visualizations publically available. Wicentowski stated that the Office could publish the data on the website and then users could download the data and manipulate it. It might be possible to get Palladio to run on the Office website. Dudziak commented that it would be useful to put information on the Office website about these visualizations in addition to instructions for using Palladio. She added that the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) could highlight this information, as could other professional organizations. Faith responded that, over the last several weeks, the Office had used Twitter to draw attention to Tumblr posts featuring these visualizations.
Randolph asked Faith to access the information relating to cross-references across volumes in the Carter administration subseries. As Faith did so, Randolph explained that he had asked Wicentowski, Faith, and others to develop a visualization of cross-linked issues in the Carter volumes. The resultant visualization exists as a “vivid and powerful” depiction of the overlapping issues faced by the Carter administration, necessitating the scholar to conduct research in multiple volumes. This visualization was created using Gelphi, a data visualization tool that emphasizes the graphing of complex data. After Faith responded to a technical question posed by Tom Zeiler, Immerman stated that while he normally suggested that the Office write a column for SHAFR’s newsletter Passport, highlighting recent Office developments and initiatives, he believed that the Office needed to reach out to the other constituent professional organizations in order to publicize this development. He encouraged the Office to contact the editor of the American Historical Association’s (AHA) Perspectives on History. Zeiler added that the Office should also reach out to Ed Linenthal at the Organization of American Historians (OAH), editor of the Journal of American History (JAH).
Resolution Regarding Central Intelligence Agency’s Proposed Email Destruction Schedule
Immerman said that Trudy Peterson drafted a resolution noting the Committee’s concern over the proposed Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) schedule for the destruction of email. He indicated that he would send the Committee members the wording of the resolution for their review and approval. Immerman will then submit the approved wording to the SHAFR Council. The Committee agreed to insert the resolution into the minutes for the December meeting. The approved text of the resolution is as follows:
The Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation (HAC) to the Department of State expresses its concern about the proposed disposition schedule for email records of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This proposed schedule has the potential to limit significantly the records available for ensuring that the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series remains the “thorough, accurate and reliable” documentary record of U.S. foreign relations required by the Foreign Relations statute of 1991. The HAC thus urges the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to conduct a thorough appraisal of the CIA emails as it reconsiders its tentative approval of the schedule.
Status of Declassification of Department of State Records
Jeff Charlston reported progress on the Department’s declassification efforts. The 1982 classified telegrams are now in Quality Assurance Review (QAR). Turning to FRUS review, Charlston stated that the Office of Information Programs and Services (IPS) had reviewed 1,247 pages of the Carter administration Organization and Management of Foreign Policy volume and 1,151 pages of the Reagan administration Conflict in the South Atlantic, 1981–1984 volume. While electronic review of the N and P reels continued to lag due to resource challenges, reviewers made good headway on other records. He stated that there had been a 34 percent increase in paper review during fiscal year (FY) 2014. IPS had reviewed 3.5 million pages and anticipated a total of 3.7 million pages reviewed by the end of calendar year (CY) 2014. Since the beginning of FY 2015, IPS had reviewed 615,000 paper pages. Charlston added that 200,000 pages had been reviewed at the Remote Archives Capture (RAC) during CY 2014. In addressing the National Declassification Center (NDC) workload, he indicated that IPS was keeping up. If IPS needs more resources at the NDC, it will prioritize.
Immerman, noting that the Committee would soon be drafting its annual report, indicated that the Committee’s report should reflect this good news. He asked if he could contact Charlston with additional questions, to which Charlston answered affirmatively. Randolph said that IPS’s efforts were commendable. Following Dudziak’s comment that the increased rate of IPS review facilitates research in these records, Charlston responded that IPS had reviewed 900,000 + pages from Presidential Libraries over previous years. Peterson inquired as to the personnel conducting the unclassified reviews; Charlston answered that interns have previously been used in this capacity.
Immerman asked for any additional questions or comments. He indicated that he had read Lee White’s recent article on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). White referenced some of the activities of the FOIA Advisory Committee, adding that its next meeting would take place in January.
The Committee adjourned for lunch at 12:15 p.m.
Closed Session, December 8
Issues Relating to the Declassification and Opening of Records at the National Archives
Immerman called the closed session to order at 1:45 p.m. He stated that David Langbart and John Laster were unable to attend the meeting. He then called on Don McIlwain for his report.
McIlwain first reported for Langbart. According to McIlwain, Langbart will provide an update at the March meeting. Langbart had, at this meeting, wanted to introduce some processing archivists who will work with Langbart in Research Services.
McIlwain then presented his own report, noting that the 1975 N-reels and TS paper files are open and available at the National Archives. This information will be appearing on the release list on the NDC blog. The NDC will begin processing the 1976 N-reels that the Department of Energy (DOE) recently returned. Some of the TS documentation remains at DOE. McIlwain then turned to the Department of State’s workload at the NDC’s Interagency Referral Center (IRC), noting that it had received 600,000 pages from other agencies. The Referral Center leads all other agencies in release rates: a 93 percent release rate for referred documents. During 2015, the National Archives had processed 3.1 million pages of records in Record Groups (RG) 59, 84, 286, and 306. Lastly, McIlwain’s team had met and exceeded the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) goal of a 10 percent reduction in the FOIA backlog.
Immerman asked how those results had been achieved, and McIlwain attributed the success to a streamlined process, improved methods to have requestors narrow, define, and prioritize their requests, communication with researchers, and hard work by an excellent staff. McIlwain underscored that hard work and expertise are key.
John Powers indicated that the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) has primary responsibility for working with non-U.S. Government organizations (including Universities) who find U.S. Government classified records in their collections. Powers briefly discussed the regulation, 32 C.F.R. 2001.36, covering these instances. He explained that, in certain cases, ISOO staff travel to private institutions and collections to evaluate their records and determine their classification status. If warranted, ISOO staff ensure the records are properly safeguarded and assist the institution with declassification. McIlwain noted that the NDC had worked closely with ISOO to set up Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) program at the Hoover Institution Archives, located at Stanford University. William Fischer interjected that the Department had collaborated with ISOO regarding former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance’s personal papers, housed at Yale University. Charlston sent documents to ISOO for review.
Randolph, referencing the 93 percent release rate, indicated that it was a wonderful development. McIlwain commented that since the NDC had reduced the backlog, it had been able to “gear up” the Interagency Referral Center. Once an agency is notified that it has referrals, the agency has 1 year to work through this material. A mechanism is now in place so that Charlston or Marvin Russell will be notified that there are Department of State records for review. If no action takes place after a year, then the records will be declassified. At this point, Fischer praised Russell’s work as the IPS liaison to the NDC. In response to Randolph’s question as to the composition of the backlog, McIlwain explained that it contained the documentation that was removed because it was exempt or another agency had to review it. McIlwain raised the issue of training in terms of the referral process. Powers noted that the earlier problems of excessive and inappropriate referrals have eased over time. One reason is improved equity recognition training. A second has been ISOO's declassification assessment program. Agencies review has improved over the last 7 years since this program began - and there are far fewer instances of inappropriate or improper referrals. Powers asserted that the next step is to allow agencies to review and declassify or exempt each other’s' information. As the volume of records requiring review increase, agencies need to seek new solutions, adopt risk management approaches and policies, and consider new "best practices" to deal with the volume.
Mayer noted that in the past he has reported on NARA’s efforts to increase the number of archivists involved in processing records. The National Archives has hired 24 archivists for this purpose. While these positions are located at NARA facilities throughout the United States, most of these positions are at Archives II. He indicated that NARA has also made changes in order to improve onsite research. A “pull on demand” survey is ongoing currently. Mayer and his staff have been working with McIlwain and other NDC staff in order to improve communication between the NDC and the various custodial units. Mayer reiterated that it is helpful to have NDC staff in room 2000 at Archives II in order to assist researchers.
He then turned to several of the other challenges facing the National Archives. Noting that in September 2013, Jay Bosanko had told the Committee that physical space proved a perennial problem, Mayer conceded that the space issue had not abated. On September 30 (end of FY 2014), NARA closed the Anchorage archives and transferred the records to the Seattle facility. The digitization of these records is ongoing. NARA also closed the Market Street facility, located in Center City Philadelphia, and consolidated it with the Townsend Road facility. Mayer underscored that these are tough decisions. He noted that the National Archives is continuing to work under constraints in an effort to improve the researcher experience. In the past, he continued, NARA had 15 different inquiry-tracking databases running; currently, one system now tracks these inquiries across the various NARA facilities. Asserting that this is better access management, Mayer stated that it enables the National Archives to build a database of questions that are continually asked and then allow for the development of answers to these frequently asked questions. The previous week, NARA had launched the online “The National Archives Catalog,” as the successor to the Online Public Access (OPA) system. The Catalog has a better user interface and will allow for greater integration of material (archival descriptions, electronic records, etc.) for the researcher to access electronically. Mayer stressed that this was a “leap forward” as the Catalog will be updated weekly. One challenge, he added, is that the Catalog is scalable to a size that NARA has not previously encountered. As such, NARA is still working out some technical problems.
Noting that at the September meeting, the Committee had requested additional information about locating Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in cables, Mayer stressed that PII exposure prevention posed a fundamental constraint. At this point, Mayer introduced Lynn Goodsell and Rebecca Calcagno. Goodsell explained that she had not attended the September meeting but understood that the Committee had questions related to the PII “sniffer tool.” Continuing, she said that the Department of State performs a “huge review” on its records. It takes multiple reviews to get PII identified and protected. During 2005– 2006, advanced search tools did not exist, and false positives kept occurring. Goodsell noted that the 2014 debut of the PII sniffer tool, which can handle complex search expressions, allowed for more focused reviews. However, she added, false positives still occurred. For example, searches for 9 digit numbers turned up not only Social Security numbers (SSNs) but also position numbers and telephone numbers. The search tool is programmed to follow the pre-2011 rules for SSNs. The National Archives is in the process of performing broad searches using the PII sniffer tool and these results must be reviewed. Goodsell then explained the technical aspects of the review of the 1978 cables, using the sniffer tool.
At this point, Immerman commented that the manual review performed after the sniffer tool is applied was a much more expedited process than he previously understood. Goodsell stated that the records currently under discussion do not go to the NDC because they are already declassified or unclassified.
Dudziak stated that Goodsell’s explanation was helpful and illuminating. She then questioned the process and the issue of error rates in finding PII, indicating that the report was more positive than the last time the sniffer tool was discussed at the September meeting. Goodsell stressed that the Department of State already does a pass through of the cables, and that NARA has a better feel for the TAGS/terms that will suggest PII. She explained that the review of the 1978 cables marked the first time NARA used the sniffer tool on a large body of records. She added that between the filter and the tool, as much PII as possible will be detected. Mayer added that NARA is down to a fine as screen as possible at this point. Goodsell stated that the technology will continue to improve. Mayer underscored the amount of work that has gone into improving access at the National Archives. The deployment of the sniffer tool is yet another example of this.
A general discussion ensued about the technical aspects of redacting cables and noting reasons for redacting them. Toward the end of the discussion, Immerman stated that the Committee had discussed electronic records at the last several Committee meetings. However, some questions about the accessibility of these records remained, specifically, related to the reintegration of declassified records into broader collections. Immerman asked if NARA had made any progress on this matter. Goodsell explained that several technical barriers still existed. McIlwain added that the NDC can output a PDF if it is run through another system, but, at that point, it will no longer be a PDF and will not be reintegrated back into the original format. After additional comments from Goodsell and Mayer, Immerman conceded: “There are all these new issues associated with electronic records.”
Laura Belmonte inquired if NARA had developed any means of simplifying the records request process. Mayer acknowledged that he understood the “pain” associated with the current request process. The first step, he stated, is the hope that the new Catalog will facilitate better internal NARA communication (for example, between the custodial units). He referenced his earlier remarks concerning the ongoing “pull on-demand” survey. He intended to update the Committee regarding any developments in these areas at the March meeting. Immerman stated that he will be in contact with Mayer and other NARA staff to ensure that the Committee’s annual report is accurate.
Immerman then asked Powers for his report. Powers began by noting that ISOO wants to assess the work of the NDC and the IRC process. Turning to the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB), Powers stated that PIDB released its 2014 supplemental report, entitled “Setting Priorities: An Essential Step in Transforming Declassification,” on December 11. The report is a supplemental to the November 2012 report, entitled “Transforming the Security Classification System.” The current report’s focus is on prioritization of records for declassification and is available online. The PIDB members met with the Records Access and Information Security Interagency Policy Committee/Classification Reform Committee (RAIS IPC/CRC) in December. Powers added that Randolph attended and spoke at that session. Following their meeting with the RAIS IPC/CRC members, they discussed plans for the next two years, opting to focus advocacy for their 2012 Transforming the Security Classification System recommendations. They are interested in focusing their next supplemental report on technology. They also indicated a desire to continue to press for completion of goals in the Second National Action Plan for Open Government: piloting technology solutions to review Reagan administration email for declassification and declassifying no longer sensitive obsolete FRD information. Lastly, Powers addressed the issue of MDR, specifically, the increases in MDRs. He noted that one reason for increases in MDR requests could be the "pass/fail" reviews conducted by agencies during their automatic declassification reviews.
At this point, Mayer referenced the earlier discussion on the CIA email that had taken place during the open session. He expressed NARA’s interest in the issue, noting that he would be interested in seeing the Committee’s resolution.
Peterson asked for clarification on documents that have been reclassified, noting that a recently released book contained references to records that are now not currently available. Mayer stated that some materials had been rescreened. McIlwain stated that the material had been pulled back for other reasons than national security. Mayer said that this issue spoke to the one of the challenges faced by NARA in terms of improving information sharing within the agency. McIlwain added that the internal processes have improved from the point of the records reaching the National Archives. Powers, in reference to Peterson’s question, echoed McIlwain’s point.
Immerman asked Fischer for his report. Fischer stated that IPS planned to keep NARA “busy” in 2015. The top priority is to keep the pipeline of hard copy and electronic records flowing to College Park. He indicated that IPS planned to ship 800 boxes of records to NARA during 2015. IPS is actively engaged in transfer requests. February 3, 2015, was the first scheduled transfer date of the new year. Fischer noted that the Department would also undertake a special media transfer of state.gov and Dipnote to NARA. Also planned for transfer are 1,600 compact discs of digital photographs of Department buildings, dating from the 1960s through 2001. Lastly, Fischer stated that the 1982 cables had been sent for an initial quality assurance (QA) review the previous week. Despite the various level of review performed, Fischer acknowledged that other agencies are not screening for PII other than their own agency’s.
Charlston, referring to paper review, insisted that IPS will try to move the line, given the constraints faced in 2015. He also discussed the new facilities at SA–13, noting that transition to the new facility may reduce efficiency for the next year. Charlston also stated that over-referral is a problem that IPS trains its reviewers to avoid.
Immerman asked what created bottlenecks in the process. Fischer stated that Mayer and Goodsell had described these bottlenecks, primarily the issues related to electronic records. These records require different types of evaluation and that slowed review. While Fischer acknowledged that technology was great, electronic records are more difficult to deal with than paper records. Mayer further elaborated on these issues, adding that there is “no shelf for the electronic records to get on.” The reality is, he continued, is that storage of electronic records is a problem, owing to the cost to maintain the infrastructure.
Charlston highlighted the need for more interagency support and better performance on referrals. Immerman thanked everyone for their reports and then expressed the Committee’s support for the process.
The Committee adjourned for a short break at 3:15 p.m.
Resumption of Closed Session, December 8
The Committee meeting resumed at 3:30 p.m.
Report on the Public Diplomacy Retrospective
After Immerman called the meeting to order, Howard began the afternoon session with a brief discussion of the genesis of the Public Diplomacy retrospective volume. He then introduced Marrs, who led the effort to complete the World War I compilation, noting that historians will focus on completing the compilations for the Nixon, Kennedy, and Johnson years, awaiting adequate staff time to return to the interwar period.
Marrs noted that materials from the 1910s differed from more contemporary Department records in their lack of “foundational think-piece” documents. However, he adhered to three aims for the volume: charting the work of the Committee on Public Information (CPI), demonstrating the diverse types of CPI activities, and showing the various areas covered by those activities. Marrs noted the intriguing opportunity the compilation provided to include contemporary video as part of the volume. He demonstrated by playing clips from the volume, which were posted on the Office website.
Following Marrs, Hawley and Kristin Ahlberg discussed their research for the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administration compilations, for inclusion in the retrospective volume. They described the various themes contained within each compilation and highlighted commonalities across the administrations.
At the conclusion of the presentations, the Committee discussed differences and similarities of focus among the later administrations, the role of the United States Information Agency (USIA) in public diplomacy, and the location and composition of archival materials.
The Committee adjourned for the day at 4:45 p.m.
Closed Session, December 9
Efforts to Meet the 30-Year Publication Line: Report on Research and Annotation for Carter and Reagan Administration Volumes
After an introduction by Howard, Sara Berndt discussed her work on recent compilations, giving special attention to her recent work on a Carter administration volume. Berndt outlined the central themes that emerged during her research, her observations regarding the key topics in the documents, and suggested how the forthcoming volume might illuminate previously overlooked aspects of some events.
The Committee adjourned into Executive Session at the conclusion of Berndt’s presentation.